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Four-eyed butterflyfish

Chaetodon capistratus

Description: Four-eyed butterflyfish get their common name from the large, dark spot (false eye) ringed in white located on their flanks. Their compressed, discus shaped body is light gray with yellowish hues and their ventral fins are yellow. The snout is short and the mouth small. On their head, a black vertical bar runs down through their true eyes. These markings, the false eye and bar through the true eye, confuse predators. They mistake the back end for the front end and vice versa.

Size: Adults usually reach a maximum length of four inches (10 cm), however, it has been reported that some have reached six inches (15 cm).

Behavior: These diurnal fish are active during the day hunting prey. At night they look for shelter to sleep and hide from predators. When threatened, they turn putting their “false eye”, which are on the flanks and much larger than the real one in its head, closer to the predator. This is a classic example of a distraction pattern which misleads predators into aiming for the rear of the fish, rather than its head. During this time of confusion the butterflyfish has a greater chance of escape. If escape seems unlikely, the Four- eyed butterflyfish faces the predator, lowers its head and raises it spines as an act of intimidation.

Diet: They feed on anthozoans, fish eggs, worms and crustaceans.

Senses: Butterflyfish have good vision that they use to find food.

Communication: Monogamous pairs communicate visually. If they become separated, one swims upward in order to get a better view in locating its mate.

Reproduction: These butterflyfish form monogamous pairs, mating for life. Spawning is at dusk and the female releases 3000 to 4000 small pelagic eggs that settle on the bottom during the night. They hatch within a day.

Habitat/range: Four-eyed butterflyfish inhabit shallow coral reefs in depths of 6-65 feet (2-20 m) in the Caribbean and the Southern Gulf of Mexico. They are also found in the tropical Atlantic Ocean as far north as New England.

Status: Least Concern (LC) on IUCN Red List.